At dawn on Saturday 25 April 2020, hundreds of Australians gathered in their driveways to observe a minute of silence to commemorate Anzac Day. In suburbs across the country they found inventive ways to mark the occasion, decorating fences with rosemary and wreaths, letterboxes with paper poppies, and pathways with candles and chalked messages ‘Lest we forget’. Anzac Day fell during the national COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and ‘Light up the Dawn’ or ‘Stand at Dawn’, as the Returned Services League (RSL) termed it, was a response to the cancellation of dawn services around Australia. After the recent decline in Anzac Day Dawn Service attendance of post-centenary celebrations, it was a poignant act of remembrance and one that was perhaps all the more moving given its disconcerting echoes with history. Only once before in its over one-hundred-year history had Anzac Day ceremonies been similarly disrupted, during the public health crisis brought about by the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1919, when most events were postponed and some even cancelled. Anzac Day 2020 was not only a commemoration of the country’s military past but also an event, like Anzac Day 1919, that connected communities in the face of a global pandemic and the social isolation that it brought in its wake. The traditions sparked by World War I still hold an important place in Australian political and cultural life, and today, as the country deals with crises that resonate with those of a century ago, the history of this conflict has a heightened relevance.
- World War I
- Anzac Day